I am generally and historically not one of those people that sees things through. Throughout my entire life I have run away. From responsibility, from commitment and from ambition. I think it’s important to reiterate this fact because when I’ve read these kind of blogs, or quit lit books in the past, I have felt a slight disconnect with the author. They are (not always but normally) successful. They have, or had before addiction took hold, a very good career, or since they have stopped drinking they have created (what society perceives at least) a flourishing and thriving life. Book deals, growing businesses, perhaps they have retrained as a therapist or counsellor working closely with addiction and recovery. They are incredibly driven.
I, on the other hand, am not. I write a blog obviously, and I am writing a book. But other than that I am just a bloke who works a normal job, pays monthly rent on a small flat in a small town, flits between relationships like a honey bee between beautiful flowers and worries about normal things. Like a normal bloke. I could count on one hand the things I have fully committed to. Learning the guitar, a couple of my romantic relationships, my young nephew and niece, veganism (yeah, that happened a couple of years into sobriety) and I learnt to juggle once. The juggling doesn’t sound like much of a commitment I agree, but have you ever tried to juggle? That shit needs commitment and practice to get right. I underachieved at school, I underachieved in my work life, although that’s taken a more positive turn in sobriety, I don’t own a house or have 2.4 children, a medium sized dog, a large family car and a white picket fence. Admittedly I don’t buy into these superficial status symbols of success anyway, but you get the picture.
This is why I’ve been as surprised as anyone that I’ve managed to stay sober for as long as I have. Sometimes, however, something comes along that I fully dive into and go all out for. Learning guitar, getting sober and going vegan are the obvious contenders here. But other than that, I really am just like your average kind of guy. You don’t have to be one of ‘those’ people to achieve sobriety you see. Of everyone that I know I was probably the least likely if I’m honest. I would normally have given up on it because it takes too much commitment. It would have been other people that would have done it. Other people that are good at other things, that see things through. But not me.
The fact is, anyone can stop drinking. Like I say, you don’t have to be one of ‘those’ people, but you do need to commit to it. It is not something that you should be scared about though. It is seen as such a difficult thing to do, and if you overthink it, it is. Equally though, on a purely basic level (and I understand that addiction is far from basic and is a very complex issue) it is the easiest thing in the world. You just don’t pick up another drink ever again. That’s it. I believe the mindset is the most important starting point of stopping drinking. Stopping any addiction actually. At the very start at least, before you dive into the reasons behind your addiction it must start with the admittance that you have a problem, and then from there you should have the firm belief that you will do it. That you want to do it. That you can do it. If you go into it tentatively it will be much more difficult. If you have the mindset that you’re going to struggle, then you will struggle. When a craving arises you will look at it with fear and dread, rather than how it should be looked at. As something that happens when you are addicted to something. And if you are armed with the knowledge of why it happens you will know it’ll pass. So many millions of people overcome addiction so why can’t you? It’s much better to focus on the positivity of the millions of people that have beaten it, rather than the negativity of the millions that haven’t. Do your homework obviously. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. Make it the most important thing in your life and you will succeed. Of course there will be times where it feels really fucking difficult. That’s normal. Just like life can feel really fucking difficult, so can sobriety. Actually so can addiction though right?
Choose your difficult.
The right mindset is absolutely vital though. You must start with the right mindset.
When I learnt how to play the guitar I stuck at it, I practised for hours every day. I had told myself I was going to learn how to play the guitar so that’s exactly what I did. And that was fucking difficult to start with as well but I just kept going because I wanted to be someone who could play the guitar. And then, over time, I became someone who could play the guitar. Because that’s what I wanted to do, more than anything else at that particular time in my life.
And so it is with sobriety. Say it to yourself firmly, before you say it to anyone else. Until that time that I did that, I was struggling. I was flapping around, assuming that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Setting myself wishy washy goals and rules, failing and then telling myself that of course I failed, just like I’d failed at so many other things throughout my life. I was splashing around in what I perceived to be very turbulent waters, looking to other people to throw me a life-raft and help me out of it because I couldn’t keep my head above water. Until one day I realised that the waters were only turbulent because I was flapping around so much. All I needed to do was stop flapping and the calm water would carry me itself . I didn’t need anyone to throw me a life-raft, I didn’t need to be looking around me, waiting for someone to come along and save me. In fact, no-one would. Because no-one can other than yourself. All I needed to do was stop. I had everything else already in me to take care of everything else. I just had to say no. Firmly. No more.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the movie The Matrix. If you aren’t then are we even friends? Anyway, towards the end of the movie in a dark underground station, our hero Neo is trying to get back to his friends, and the girl he is with, Trinity, manages to get out of there. Away from the dreaded Agents who are in hot pursuit. Normally if the Agents are after you, you run. But Neo doesn’t run. Neo turns to face the Agents. More specifically, he turns to face the main antagonist, Agent Smith. His friends all watch in shock horror.
“What is he doing?!” one of them asks Morpheus.
“He’s starting to believe” comes the reply.
And so begins the final act of the movie. Neo has spent the whole movie being told that he is ‘The One’. The One to take down the Agents and The Matrix itself. But he has never truly believed it. The moment he does believe it some amazing things start to happen. Instead of getting his arse kicked by Agent Smith, like anyone else would have, he fights on an equal footing. He eventually gets chased down because the Agents can effectively cheat (not fair), and he gets shot. It seems like it is all over. He’s been killed and the Agents have won. But he resurrects somehow (because love apparently?!) and as he rises and turns to face the Agents, they fire a barrage of bullets at him. But he believes now. He is reborn. He puts up a hand, palm out to face the bullets and simply says,
The bullets drop to the ground and the Agents look on in shock as Neo swiftly defeats them and flies off into the sunset, because, yeah, he can fly now.
I watched this movie so many times as a drinker and loved it then, but when I watched it through sober eyes I couldn’t believe how many parallels there were in it to achieving sobriety. It suddenly became one big sober analogy. That moment Neo said “No” felt like the moment I had when I decided enough was enough. I had put up my hand, palm out, to my addiction and simply said “No”. My moment of belief, just like Neo’s, had come just before then. Admittedly I didn’t get killed and resurrected, although it felt exactly like I had gone through a resurrection when I got sober. I had been reborn. Stronger and with a certainty that I would achieve exactly what I set out to achieve.
That’s the kind of belief that you need to get sober. You can get sober without that firm belief but fucking hell it’s hard work. And it remains hard work every single day. It doesn’t have to be like that. Just get your head in the right place and believe that you can achieve the impossible. Because you can. You’ve just got to do it. And this comes from someone who hasn’t achieved very much in his life at all, and has often failed. Apart from a few things. And juggling. Don’t forget the juggling. That shit is hard to learn.
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